Dear Buzz,

Don’t you just hate it when people reject settled science and mountains of evidence? Oh, wait, I know you do.You once decked a moon landing denialist who was pestering you to swear on a Bible that you really did go to the moon.

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This week on the fossil Friday, I bring you a bone from the Hemphillian North American Stage (about 5-10 million years ago) found in what is now Nevada. If I was a gambling lady, I’d say that this animal was a lightweight runner, possibly even an herbivore prancing across the plains. But who am I to gamble on fossils?

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As Associate Director for Science at the White House Office of Science and Jo Handelsman, PhD Technology Policy, Dr. Jo Handelsman  “helps to advise President Obama on the implications of science for the Nation, ways in which science can inform U.S. policy, and on Federal efforts in support of scientific research.”

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Alabama state coat of arms, 1876

In 1995, the governor of Alabama, Fob James, spoke before the state board of education, which was then considering a proposal to insert a disclaimer about evolution in all biology textbooks used in the state. In The Creationists (2006), Ronald L. Numbers primly writes, “The Republican governor, Fob James, who presided over the board, strongly backed the disclaimer, saying that he personally believed the biblical account of the origin of life to be true.” Randy Moore, Mark Decker, and Sehoya H. Cotner’s Chronology of the Evolution–Creationism Controversy (2009) is a little more vivid, writing, “During an appearance before the Alabama State Board of Education, Forrest Hood ‘Fob’ James ... ridicules evolution by slowly crossing the stage, beginning in a crouch and then ending erect.” By these accounts, it seems that historians have taken the speech in stride.

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The issue of whether Sherlock Holmes is science literate led to some fascinating discussion in the comments section, though not, I fear, to a consensus. But let’s turn to a matter closer to my own heart and examine what we can learn about someone’s science literacy based on whether they reject evolution.

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